Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Blu-ray Awareness Picking Up

As more and more consumers in the U.S. are jumping on the HDTV bandwagon (especially in wake of the country's transition to digital TV), the familiarity with Blu-ray is also increasing. The NPD Group reports that awareness in the technology has jumped 10% in the past year, from 35% to 45% of HDTV owners. Despite this, only 6% said they would buy a Blu-ray device in the next 6 months (9% for existing HDTV owners).

"With HDTVs now in approximately 40 million U.S. households, that percentage translates to a pool of almost 4 million potential BD player buyers," said Russ Crupnick, Entertainment Industry Analyst for NPD.

The study reiterates what many others have said over the past few months: that customers are still quite happy with their standard-definition DVD players. However, as the life-cycle of these devices come to an end, it's safe to assume that many of those looking for a replacement will invest in a Blu-ray player rather than another standard DVD product. This will rely, of course, on the hope that, by then, the pricing of both Blu-ray hardware and software comes down to a point that the average consumer deems the technology an "acceptable" alternative.

In the meantime, what can retailers and manufacturers do to help ramp up interest in the category? The first recommendation is obvious: demonstrate the benefits of Blu-ray over standard-def fare in your store via a side-by-side comparison. What would make most sense is to do so with an upconverting standard DVD player rather than an old, $50 model: using the latter will only convince the customer that you think he's an idiot. Any consumer that's really interested in getting the best picture quality will need to be convinced that Blu-ray is better than a higher-end upconverting player.

The second recommendation is to offer incentives. People love free stuff, so to include a Blu-ray movie or two with the purchase of a Blu-ray player, or, in the retailer's case, to offer in-store promotions, could help bring attention toward the product category.

Third, make the products easy to use, and tout those features. Consumers that are interested in high-quality video but aren't exactly technophiles, might worry that a Blu-ray player is too complex for them to understand how to use. Show them that this isn't the case.

Finally, carefully outline what is required to fully enjoy a Blu-ray player (i.e. an HDTV and Blu-ray discs; not to mention a favourable audio system) so that your customer doesn't go home disappointed. More important, explain what he can't use one for (e.g. to play old HD DVDs!)

Over time, Blu-ray can make it to become the Compact Disc (or should I say digital download?) of the video world.

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